Michael J. Radwin

Tales of a software engineer who keeps kosher and hates the web.

Protecting email addresses for my Alumni Internet Directory

MVHS Spartan I’ve been publishing the Mountain View High School Alumni Internet Directory online since 1995. Think of it as an free version of classmates.com, but just for my high school.

Since a group of us started planning our 10-year reunion, I’ve been thinking about the website more recently. I’ve had RSS feeds on the site since the summer of 1999 (long before I ever heard of blogging), but I finally added the orange XML icon (View the raw XML source) today.

One of the things that has always made alumni timid about using the site is the possibility of getting spam. The fact that their email addresses are published on the web makes them good candidates for email harvester bots. I originally addressed this problem by adding a <meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow"> tag to the site, hoping that bots would respect that.

Later, I started using the decimal HTML entity encoder trick (listing addresses like mailto:mradwin&#64;yahoo&#46;com) but I’m sure spammers will catch onto that soon.

So the only thing left to do is to create a “send email to this user” form and list the addresses in the same way that Y! Groups does. The links will look to the user like mradwin@y..... but instead of being a mailto:, they’ll be regular hyperlink to a /bin/mail?to=<secret base64 encoded data> form which asks for an email address and sets the Reply-To header.

The 1500+ alumni registered on the site right now would definitely benefit from this feature. Plus, after changing the email links to use the email-protect form, I’d be able to remove the robots meta tag, which would allow Google and other legit search engines index the site better, increasing visibility to the larger alumni community.

I’ve just gotta find the time to code the thing.

[Update: I found some time to write the code. The mailto: links have been replaced with a web form]